T HE fuller understanding that has now been reached of the crisis that absorbed the generation between and 1847 and 1877 is due in the main to the more critical study of the origin of the Constitution and to the demonstration of the importance in American history of the process of settling the continent. The one has put in a clearer light the nature of the issue between North and South and the constitutional significance of the period of reconstruction between 1865 and 1877. The other has revealed the forces that gave reality to a constitutional debate so bitter as to lead to civil war and that in a large measure determined congressional policy in the years that followed. The study of the settlement of the Mississippi valley and of its influence upon the social and economic structure of the Atlantic states discloses why North and South grew to be different; how the South was disappointed of its expectation that the new settlements would be an extension of its own way of life; and how the North, at first regarding western expansion with dislike and alarm, found ultimately in the West employment for its financial resources and the best customer for its capital and consumer goods. It is now evident why the preservation of an equilibrium between the older sections came to be more and more anxiously regarded as it became more insecure; and it can be seen why the South, watching the West slipping into the hands of its rival, sought first to obstruct the growth of those forces that would in the end place it permanently in the minority, and, when it failed, set itself passionately to defend those conceptions of fundamental law and inalienable
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Publication information: Book title: American History and American Historians:A Review of Recent Contributions to the Interpretation of the History of the United States. Contributors: Hugh H. L. Bellot - Author. Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press. Place of publication: Norman, OK. Publication year: 1952. Page number: 163.
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